So I’ll be honest, eight days is not enough time to enjoy Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsular – but it’s better than nothing. And as I’m always on some kind of curfew – I took the time I was given and had the experience of my life.
Flying into Cancun – leaving the airport was much harder than anticipated – baggage has to be collected and then checked before you’re released and there are queues everywhere. Once through customs we exited immediately (quick bit of advice, try and get some local currency before you get to the airport as the queues at the currency exchange places are horrendous – and the exchange rates criminal) and headed straight for the first destination Playa Del Carmen.
This resort wasn’t on my must-see list – but it was on the way to Tulum, the first place I wanted to explore and I wanted to find my first night’s accommodation whilst it was still daylight, Yes the 8-day whirlwind adventure also included the excitement/trepidation of not booking anywhere in advance…
Playa Del Carmen is every bit as bright and brash as you’d expect – a fun place to spend one night – but not the authentic Mexican experience I was looking for. Still a good place to start the holiday. We picked a bright pink hostel right next to the bus station for the first night – just 400 pesos for the two of us and right in the centre of the action.
Check out the cigars.
The local bus to Tulum – quick, cheap and clean. We were in Tulum in time for breakfast (melon on the beautiful beach) and found a fab ‘Smurf village style’ beach hut to sleep in (Zazil Kin) recommended by Lonely Planet. No running water in the hut, limited electricity, thatched roof sand on the concrete floor, an absolutely perfect place to base ourselves in for three nights.
A quick blast round the Tulum ruins – stunning, cliffside site.
Shrimp and fish ceviche to die for at local joint Las Camillo – in quantities far exceeding that served up in the trendy eponymous Frith Street eatery.
Motor boat snorkelling trip.
All set to get the local bus to Chichen Itza (a gruelling 3 hour journey that would get us there at midday when all the tourists would be descending) a chance encounter with a lovely local cabbie saw us booking his services for two days to ensure we would arrive at Chichen Itza at sunrise the next day and Coba today.
Coba is #amazeballs. Coba is truly amazing – most Indiana Jones-like – and way way more amazing than I’d ever expected. Climbing the pyramid (100+ really steep high steps) was terrifying. Am sure that will be banned pretty soon – the health and safety implications are horrendous. The tandem cycle tour guide around Coba was definitely worth it to make the experience, well, more of an experience I guess.
And don’t forget a dip in a cenote…
On the way home we stopped off at the small, local cenote – Cenote Multum Ha Coba. In an ideal world I’d have loved to go to the Gran Cenote – however didn’t want to go there in the peak times and there were no free morning slots in our schedule. However this lo-key cenote was amazing and as it was slightly off the beaten track at one point we had it to ourselves – and it was spectacular. An underground freshwater oasis, which lost its electricity at one point – luckily we’d been pre-warned by a friendly family on our way down the 100 steps.
Travelling with a non-pork eater has led me to sample many more different meats and meals along the way. The family run tacos place in a very cute village between Tulum and Chichen Itza served us delish homemade deer tacos – certainly the most interesting breakfast I’ve ever had.
On to Chichen Itza which was truly amazing and well worth getting there as it opened. However I must admit to being much more blown away by Coba – but maybe that’s because it was the first pyramid I’d ever seen – and I could climb it! However Chichen Itza didn’t disappoint and we were ahead of the crowds
Beat the crowds.
Buy souvenirs from one of the many market traders – they’re well up for a haggle and my ceramic skull and Mayan silver pendant still look fabulous – even in the grey London town surroundings.
This morning we were back on the local bus and on our way to Isla Holboix. The anticipated gruelling 4-hour bus ride to Chiquila was in fact very comfy and non-gruelling. Then we jumped on a boat for 100 pesos and got to the beautiful island of Holboix.
This is the one time we should have booked our accommodation in advance as the charming golf buggy taxi driver had to drive us to many many many hotels before finding one that was run by a not-so-friendly family and wasn’t particularly nice – our first experience of vaguely unfriendly Mexicans since the trip began. However Holboix itself was charming. Beautiful sandy beaches. Chilled out vibe. And I just loved the golf buggy taxis.
Relax and enjoy the wildlife.
Mojitos on the rooftop lounge bar.
Cozumel is a positive metropolis compared to Holboix. Nowhere near as beautiful – but it has a certain charm. We got clean cheap accommodation easily and then tracked down the scuba diving place we’d been recommended.
Scuba booked for the next morning we were warned not to drink any alcohol and to make sure we had plenty of sleep before the morning’s course – so we simply enjoyed some delicious Yucatan food – tacos, burritos, fajitas – we sampled the lot.
Scuba Diving with Scuba Gamma was amazing – the instructor was great – the sea was a bit choppy and the current a bit too strong, but we still managed to spot lots of great undersea sights and sea creatures and had a fab time.
Scuba done it was time to enjoy our last night in Mexico – time for tequila! And we had way too much tequila…
Hometime. Boat to Playa Del Carmen – we then had two hours on the beach before getting the bus to the airport to fly home. I’m ashamed to admit that in my hangover haze (did I mention that we had too much tequila…) I ate a McDonalds – it didn’t stay down for long but did offer a quick temporary relief! The bus to the airport was heinous – but that was the tequila’s fault rather than the bus’s fault – and at least it had a toilet!
Airport check in was much more efficient then arrivals – baggage checked in – we headed for the plane and had the long long journey home (via JFK…).